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Push For More Male Primary Teachers

Education Minister Nick Smith today, at the Principals' Federation Conference in Rotorua, announced a campaign to attract more men into primary teaching, saying that schools need a better balance of male teachers to deal with an increasing number of social issues and to provide positive role models for boys.

"We do not live in a genderless society and balance is important. Children, and particularly boys, need positive male role models. The increasing number of sole parents, most of whom are mothers, makes the issue even more important. It has been solo mums that have most often raised this issue with me. Male teachers send a message to boys that education is not sissy and help issues of discipline by setting an example of appropriate male behaviour."

The number of male teachers in primary schools has been declining since the late 1970s. Just over 20% of primary teachers today are male. The average age of a male teacher is significantly older than a female teacher. Many schools today have an all female staff. Secondary teaching is far more balanced, with 47% being male.

"It is not PC to talk about a lack of men in teaching. People will argue it is the quality of teacher that is important and not the gender. This is of course totally correct and I have no intention of setting lower standards or higher pay for male teachers. However, just as we are being proactive in attracting more Maori and Pacific people to teaching, we need to do likewise with men."

"The reluctance by men to take up a career in primary teaching has been partly driven by salary, partly by social attitudes, and also by the fear of being accused of sexual abuse. Pay parity with secondary teaching and the 17% increase to a start-up salary of $34,000 per year addresses the first issue. Graduate teachers will now be starting on better salaries than graduate accountants and lawyers. Getting society to support and respect the valuable role of male teachers in primary schools is one of the aims of the recruitment campaign. While being tough on sexual abusers, we must also be cautious of making accusations without sufficient evidence against men working with children."

"The challenge in changing social attitudes is that the fewer male teachers there are, the more difficult it is to get school leavers to consider it as a career option. That is why we are investing in an advertising campaign to attract males to the teaching profession by emphasising the rewards of a teaching career and the important contribution men can make."

The advertising campaign to attract more men into primary teaching will start in early September, in time for enrolments for next year's intake. The campaign involves newspaper and television advertising as well as promotional material for use by career advisers in secondary schools.

"The advertising campaign is a start, but I am also considering using TeachNZ Scholarships to help attract high male achievers to primary teaching. These scholarships would parallel those used to attract Maori and Pacific Island trainees, and provide study grants of $10,000. I am seeking further advice on whether this additional step is necessary and whether it would comply with the Human Rights Act." ENDS

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